© 2007 Ray Wong
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and director Steven Soderbergh reunite to bring us yet another glossy tale of one-upmanship, and they’re starting to struggle to stay new and fresh.
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang are at it again, and this time it’s personal. Reuben (Elliott Gould) has suffered a heart attack after he’s been forced out of a co-ownership by casino tycoon Willie Bank (Al Pacino). Danny, Rusty (Brad Pitt), Linus (Matt Damon) and the others decide on a revenge mission: a) to make Bank lose the coveted 5-diamond ranking for his hotel-casino, and b) to cut his opening night profit so deep that the ownership will revert back to Reuben.
As security expert Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard), one of Ocean’s cohorts, tell them: they’re analog players in a digital world. The advance technologies Bank employs at his casino are state of the art and impenetrable – or so they say. Danny and the gang have to prove them wrong. They concoct a deliberate scheme to not disable the security – they can’t – but to use it to their advantage. All is going well until a major setback forces them to ask their nemesis, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), for help. Of course, nothing comes for free – Terry’s condition is for the Ocean’s gang to steal Bank’s diamonds, which are housed in a super-secure vault room.
Since Ocean’s Eleven, many of the cast members have gone on to stardom, so it’s a true testament of the camaraderie, the films’ successes, and Steven Soderbergh’s draw to reunite all of them again. One can only imagine the payroll just for the stars’ salaries. The three major players are Brad Pitt (Babel), George Clooney (The Good German), and Matt Damon (The Good Shepherd). Taking a break from their critically acclaimed dramatic performances, they’re back with their slick haircuts, button-down shirts and designer shoes. Their comedic timing and camaraderie are evident on screen. These guys are true buddies, and it shows.
The other cast members are having a great time as well, even though they’re all vying for screen time. Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Twelve) spends most of his time lying in bed, but manages to have some fun at the end. Eddie Jemison (Waitress) plays the technical guru to perfection – he has a great scene trying to pass a lie detector test. Don Cheadle (Reign Over Me) doesn’t have much to do this time but he has one funny scene as Fender Roads, a motorcycle daredevil. Shaobo Qin (Ocean’s Twelve) only gets to show his acrobatic skills once. Casey Affleck (The Last Kiss) and Scott Caan (Friends With Money) have a good time playing con men Virgil and Turk – they are a funny duo. Bernie Mac (Pride) and Carl Reiner (Ocean’s Twelve) are more low key this time. And Andy Garcia (The Air I Breathe) is mellower, having a good time toying with both sides.
New cast members include Al Pacino (88 Minutes) as the ruthless Willie Bank. He, too, has a good time letting a bit of his Michael Corleone persona come through (it's also interesting to note the Godfather connections within the cast). Eddie Izzard (My Super Ex-Girlfriend) has a small role as one of Danny Ocean’s consultants. Ellen Barkin (Trust the Man) is the sole female player in the entire cast, playing Willie Bank’s right-hand woman who has a thing for Matt Damon’s alter ego. And David Paymer (In Good Company) is hilarious as the V.U.P. (Very Unlucky Person).
The script by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (both for Runaway Jury) is tight and smooth. Given the complicated plot and a huge cast of characters, they’ve done a good job keeping it straight and less confusing. Of course, with that comes the tradeoffs – everything seems too smooth and easy. It’s slick and glossy, and the plot plays out like a Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon (incidentally, this is a Warner Bros. movie). The dialogue is crisp and the humor is potent. The pace is fast and sometimes disorienting – you really have to pay attention or else you’ll blink and miss important plot points.
Director Steven Soderbergh (The Good German) seems to have a ball making this third installment of the highly popular series. It helps that there’s great chemistry among the cast and crew, and the banters and repartee on screen seem genuine. Soderbergh keeps the pace moving, and the crosscutting is interesting. There’s great energy in the film and he manages to keep things straightforward enough so they don’t confuse the audience. Still, with so much going on and so many characters, it is possible to get lost. Soderbergh uses many tricks to clue in the audience, including quick inserts, smart flashbacks, and expository dialogue. The production value is good – it really is a well-oiled machine.
While Ocean’s Thirteen is entertaining and great fun, I do feel that the series is coming to an end. The players have grown up and most of them have moved on to bigger, better things. And the plot, however smart and fun, is losing its originality and freshness. How many times do we want to see similar cons and tricks? Maybe it’s time to pack up – after all, Ocean’s Fourteen will not only sound funky, it’ll also be a parody all in itself.
Stars: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Al Pacino, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle, Shaobo Qin, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Eddie Izzard, Ellen Barkin, Andy Garcia, David Paymer
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writers: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for stylized violence and language
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total –7.6 out of 10